THE BEST WAY TO RIO DE JANEIRO
From LAX, connecting service (change of plane) to Rio is offered on American, United, Delta, US Airways, COPA and LAN Airlines. Restricted round-trip fares begin at $958, including taxes and fees.
For visa requirements, go to http://www.brazilian-consulate.org.
To call the numbers below from the U.S., dial 011 (the international dialing code), 55 (the country code for Brazil) and 21 (the city code for Rio de Janeiro).
WHERE TO STAY
Hotel Tropical Barra, 500 Avenida do Pepê, Barra da Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro; 2158-9292; http://www.tropicalbarrahotel.com.br/en.us Although the rooms are no-frills in terms of décor, the breakfast spread and view of the beaches more than make up for it. Prices start at about $160 a night for a single.
WHERE TO EAT
Porcão Rio's, Avenda Infante Dom Henrique, Rio de Janeiro; 3461-9020. In Parque do Flamengo with views of Guanabara Bay and Sugarloaf Mountain, this churrascaria chain serves all-you-can-eat Brazilian-style barbecue. Bring on the meat … You can tell them to stop ("nao") or go ("sim") with the flip of a coaster at your place setting. All you can eat extends to the elaborate salad and dessert bars. Come hungry. A meal runs about $60, not including beverages.
Don Pascual, 867 Estrada do Sacarrão, Vargem Grande, Rio de Janeiro; 3417-0776, http://www.donpascual.com.br. An overnight escape for hip and privileged Cariocas, this restaurant/inn is hidden in the jungles of Vargem Grande. Food is upscale Brazilian. Main dishes range from about $20 to $40. Those not up for the drive home after dining can stay overnight and enjoy the inn's lush landscape and pool garden. A room for two, including breakfast, starts at about $120 a night.
Bar do Oswaldo, 3896 Estrada do Joá, Barra da Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro; 2493-1840; http://www.bardooswaldo.com.br. Since 1947, this place has been serving up its signature batida cocktails and live music to the locals. Although it's a bar, the appetizers and sandwiches are satisfying enough to make a meal. About $15 to $30 a person.
WHAT TO DO
Rio Hang Gliding, 9843-9006, http://www.riohanggliding.com. Fly from the heights of Tijuca Forest National Park on a tandem ride with instructors certified by the National Hang Gliding Assn. Catch bird's-eye views of the Corcovado and Sugarloaf Mountain before landing seamlessly on Pepino beach. Flights start at about $169 and include transportation to and from your hotel.
Favela Tours, 3322-2727, http://www.favelatour.com.br. It is generally not advisable to tour favelas on your own, but guide Marcelo Armstrong has organized a company to safely tour some of Rio's most famous ones. Prices start at about $50 and include transportation.
Lapa 40¿, 97 Rua Riachuelo, Lapa, Rio de Janeiro; 3970-1338; http://www.lapa40graus.com.br. This multilevel modern club attracts some of the most popular samba bands in Brazil. Admission $3 and up, depending on the show.
TO LEARN MORE
Rio de Janeiro Tourism Authority, http://www.rioguiaoficial.com.br/en/home
Instituto Kapacidade, http://www.kapacidade.org.br